I taught my final ESL class last weekend.
I’ve been working with the same students for three years and never anticipated telling them I would no longer be their teacher.
I’ve watched them grow up. They’ve watched me grow up. I’ve met all of their parents, been invited into their homes, and have celebrated their birthdays. I’ve cooked with them and joked with them. I’ve comforted them and broke up their little kid fights with each other. They know me. I love them and they love me too. Teaching ESL to kids seemed like my calling.
While I’ve spent the last couple of weeks thinking of how I would break the news, my successor accidentally ended up spilling the beans for me while I was on break.
Did I come back to a classroom full of tears? Yes. Did I have any idea how to handle the situation. Not even a little bit. Even the bully of the class was getting emotional!
Hearing my kids sniffle while trying to string together English sentences on why they didn’t want me to leave is the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever witnessed. The only thing that could have turned this mess around was me declaring that I wouldn’t be going anywhere and I’d be their English teacher forever.
I’ve learned so much from these sticky-fingered troublemakers. I tell myself daily that I won’t bring my work home with me, but I often get caught up in talking about how much I either loved or hated them that day.
Whether you’re a “kid-person” or not, here are a few reasons why teaching ESL to kids to be a part of everyone’s agenda.
Your Imagination Gets a Reboot
I’ve talked about my TESOL course several times and how I took only a few things from it. As a starter, it was necessary. I can’t imagine having walked into my first class without it. As time went on, I hadn’t really refreshed my idea of what a fun and innovative classroom was.
After about six months of recycling what I learned in my course, I found myself and my students starting to yawn in class. I randomly encouraged myself to begin inventing new games based on what they took to in the past, incorporating pop culture into lessons, replacing writing practices with art projects, and begging my school to let us open up a cooking class.
I instantly noticed a difference in my classes. Students who came only 2-4 times monthly were showing up for all eight lessons. Everyone was participating and wanted to be the first to try whatever it was we were working on.
My imagination ran wild. Not only in the classroom, but within my own writing and language learning skills. I was able to mimic their learning style and combine it with how I view and work on different tasks. A gift I can never thank them enough for.
You Become More Relatable
I haven’t had an adults-only career since I moved to China. My job requires me to goof around and put a smile on those tiny little faces while making education fun. It sounds kind of tricky, but when you’re actually face to face with these kiddos, it becomes inevitable.
My favorite teachers in school were the one’s who really found out what we were into and became a part of our generation.
I particularly remember my middle school teacher who was in his late 50’s. His knowledge of pop culture was on point, even though he was a history teacher. Mean Girls had just come out to theaters and irregardless of the fact that I was in my chopping-off-all-my-hair-I-hate-everything stage, I couldn’t have been more pumped for that movie.
He managed to seamlessly incorporate a modern-day film about how awful females can be to each other to demonstrate what women went through for the ERA.
He was always able to demonstrate his lessons without ever getting frustrated or annoyed when we were just weren’t getting something. He could be as relatable outside of the classroom as when you ran into him at a market.
Teaching ESL to Kids Allows You To Teach Any Level
I’ve heard this in a million different ways since I’ve been in China, but no matter how you say it, it’s true – we are not just educators, we are performers.
You’ll run in to every kind of child when teaching; the quiet kid, the talker, the trouble-maker, the weirdo, the teacher’s pet, the know-it-all, etc.
While you certainly don’t want to plan the same lesson for a group of kindergartners as you would high school students, you will find that being able to goof around in front of kids allows you to loosen up in front of your older students.
The older they get, the more curious they are about your life aside from teaching. Personally, I feel you should let them in, which will quickly make you must trustworthy and relatable.
I’m greedy and I like seeing the fruits of my labor.
Since I live around a three minute walk from my school, I happen to live in the same neighborhood as a lot of my students. It doesn’t bother me at all and I actually get really stoked to have a run-in with them.
But nothing is more satisfying than hearing a Chinese kid scream at you from a distance, “Hello, teacher! What are you dooooing?!” when you’re in an environment outside of the classroom.
I’ve heard parents practicing their English with my students, and my students even laying down the law and correcting their parents’ mistakes. It is as adorable as it sounds.
Being that I’ve had the same students for so long, I have literally seen them start from nothing as language learners, so I know that everything they do know, is at least 50% from me, and 50% from their willingness to learn.
Still think you’re only capable of teaching adults? Challenge yourself! Let our future leaders brighten up your life and make an everlasting impact on your teaching and learning methods.